“Keep the viewer at the centre of decisions”

Ashish Bagga, CEO, India Today Group talks about the strategic thinking behind Headlines Today’s growth graph

e4m by Shree Lahiri
Updated: Aug 27, 2012 8:11 PM
“Keep the viewer at the centre of decisions”

Clocking an upward growth trend, Headlines Today, which was admittedly, the first news channel to break the Gopal Kanda surrender news, outlines the steps taken to acquire this winning edge.

Headlines Today showed consistent growth in market share in prime time (Time Band: 19:00-24:00) moving from 10.4 per cent in week 18-21, to 10.5 per cent in week 22-25, 15.2 per cent in week 22-29 and touched 18.1 per cent in week 30-33. The channel was also leading in week 33’12 with 30 per cent share, along with CNN IBN also at 30 per cent, followed by NDTV 24x7 and Times Now at 20 per cent each. (Source: TAM, CS M 25-44 AB, WK 33’12 MARKET: 6 Metros)

Improved content and packaging
According to Ashish Bagga, CEO, India Today Group there has been strategic thinking behind this achievement. There were fundamental changes introduced in both, content and packaging. “To start with, a clearly defined core TG was articulated with the help of research and a content deep dive,” he shared. Six metros and CS 25+ MAB were defined core markets and core audience; and the editorial team turned around a fresh perspective to news that appealed to this TG.

While the viewership for the overall genre was going down, Headlines Today set out to change the viewer experience by keeping the viewer at the centre of decisions. “This meant telling our stories better. The content composition also took a radical shift by focusing on hard news and social stories and reducing entertainment,” he disclosed.

Add to this “a razor sharp presentation style on every big story” ranging from Team Anna and Baba Ramdev’s campaigns, Presidential elections, the communal violence and threat to people from north-east India, the shoot-out at the US Gurdwara, and currently the Geetika Sharma suicide case.

Another change was the decision to break away from multi-window chats at 9PM to create a differentiated look. “We are instead focusing on getting the biggest and the most relevant newsmakers in the show. Besides this, the editorial team was beefed up to pack in the punch, said Bagga.

Rationale behind these changes
Studying trends closely, it was seen that stickiness formed an important component of leadership in this genre as Headlines Today already enjoyed a decent reach, shared Bagga. Since Mumbai and Delhi formed important markets, the channel realised that a breakthrough there was necessary. Keeping this in mind, it lead to key content changes such as an enhanced 8PM news night, breaking the monotony of studios with reporting from ground zero, etc.

Some of the guiding principles that led to content evolution were sharper focus on news, key emphasis on prime time and weekdays and a ‘you’ perspective in every story.

Focussed marketing
All these developments were put into place in conjunction with focussed marketing initiatives, Bagga pointed out. “Identifying a brand space and then building on it started in sync with edit team,” he said. To start with, on-air promo schedules took a scientific approach and audience transfer from evenings to mornings and mornings to evenings was a guiding principle. Also, channelised traffic towards weekends and high TSV shows took centre stage.

Prioritisation of properties was extremely well thought out and was designed to bring in ‘heavy news viewers’. Plus campaigns around awards and shows, that build credibility, were boosted through promos on sister channels such as Aaj Tak, Tez and even radio.

The steps to synergise content across channels brought in its wake many benefits for Headlines Today. “The benefits are obvious when we have shows such as India Today Mood of the Nation or Mail Today Education Conclave. They help boost perception and reiterate our links with the India Today brand name. Synergy means we have among the largest pool of journalists to pick from when covering a story,” emphasised Bagga.

Enhancing leadership position
Zeroing in on Headlines Today’s highlights at the moment, he said that their effort now is to stay right on top of news developments. In primetime, the focus is on building perception with a different take that sets them apart from competition. “We’ve maintained an average of at least two programmes in the top five of the genre, for last few weeks. Big news stories such as Baba Ramdev campaign, Presidential elections, Geetika Sharma case, violence in Assam, etc have increased our leadership position. As long as the viewers turn to us for news, we are assured that it’s a matter of time that we’ll become a number one player soon,” concluded Bagga.

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